UK Consortium Aims to Lower the Cost of Using Titanium in Aircraft

6th December 2016

A consortium comprising of Safran Landing Systems, Metalysis, the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) and the University of Sheffield is working on a project aimed at the production of aerospace-grade titanium at an affordable price, known as the FASTForge project.

Through FASTForge the consortium is aiming to produce novel titanium alloy aerospace components in three steps from rutile sand – a mineral composed primarily of titanium dioxide (TiO2). Rutile, the most common natural form of TiO2, is found in plentiful quantities in Australia, South Africa and India.

The aim is to develop a novel low cost titanium forging production process, unique to the UK. The production of this aerospace grade titanium at an affordable price will be an enabler for the introduction of more titanium on aerospace components.

The project will seek to develop the raw material process, establish how it can be embodied in a new UK supply chain, develop cost effective manufacturing techniques and prove the capability in a landing gear application. The positive outcome for the aerospace industry from the process will be lower cost titanium parts, allowing the metal to be used more widely, leading to lighter aircraft and reduced emissions.

It will also enable the introduction or increased use of titanium, a light and non-corrosive material, in other industries such as rail, automotive, heavy duty construction and defence. Ultimately, the cost of titanium components could be reduced to less than a third of the current price.

Safran Landing Systems will manage the project, provide the specifications for the component, test it and assess where else the process could be applied to their products. Metalysis will create the powder titanium alloy from the rutile sand.

The AFRC, one of the seven elite centres which make up the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and the University of Sheffield will model the manufacturing process steps and optimise the preform and forging die designs to minimise the material used in the end product.

The AFRC will also model and optimise the forging parameters and forge the final component shape. Together with Sheffield, the centre will also analyse the material properties of the intermediate and finished components to ensure they meet the stringent requirements of the landing gear application.

“The cost of titanium is an important issue in the aerospace industry. Cheaper titanium from the FAST-forge process will protect the UK’s position as the second-largest global aerospace manufacturer, with potential to grow our share of the market as the sector grows over the next 20 years. It will mean the supply chain staying and expanding in the UK with more high-value jobs as a result” said Michael Ward, Chief Technology Officer at the AFRC.

 

FASTForge is due to complete by mid-2018.

 

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